REVISED HEADLINE; UPDATED WITH MORE REMARKS BY AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT; EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Ruslan Rehimov
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AA) – Everyone should recognize the “new reality” created by Azerbaijan driving Armenian forces from Azerbaijani lands, said the nation’s president on Tuesday
"We have expelled the enemy from our land and created a new reality. Everyone should acknowledge this reality," Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation.
Aliyev congratulated the people of Azerbaijan for the liberation of the Lachin region following 28 years of occupation by Armenian forces.
Aliyev said that before occupation, over 50,000 Azerbaijanis lived in Lachin, while today the population has reached 80,000, adding that one of their main goals will be to return the residents of Lachin and other liberated areas to their homes as soon as possible.
Telling how much of the infrastructure and buildings in regions liberated from occupation were destroyed by the Armenians, Aliyev stated that they will set about to rebuild and restore.
"We liberated several districts from the enemy on the battlefield, returned three districts, and forced the enemy, thus resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is gone. If someone thinks that this conflict still exists, they are wrong," Aliyev said.
People living in Nagorno-Karabakh today are Azerbaijani citizens, and they will see their lives improve as part of Azerbaijan, free of poverty, Aliyev stressed.
The president said the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, has been transferred to the control of Russian peacekeeping forces.
The initial version of a Nov. 10 joint statement ending the conflict contained a provision on keeping the corridor under Armenian control, but when he objected, control of the corridor was transferred to Russian peacekeepers, he said.
The corridor will be under the control of Russian soldiers for five years.
For years, the Lachin corridor served as a "lifeblood" for the so-called Armenian administration of Nagorno-Karabakh, used to bring in military reinforcements and infrastructure and commercial needs.
Aliyev also derided last month’s French Senate resolution calling for the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as "a republic," saying that if France "wants this so much," it can give their southern Marseille region to Armenians.
- New corridor to Nakhchivan
On the importance of a new transportation corridor under the Nov. 10 cease-fire between western Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, crossing Armenia, Aliyev said: "This is our historic achievement. We are taking Nakhchivan out of being encircled and, at the same time, opening a new transport artery. I can say that all countries will only benefit from this."
"Azerbaijan is establishing a connection with one of its integral parts, Nakhchivan. Azerbaijan is connected with Turkey,” he said, as well as Russia and Iran.
“Armenia, if it wants, may also join this corridor. Thus, a new five-sided cooperation platform can be created in the region."
Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, is a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
After it was occupied by Armenia in 1991, it caused a deep rift with neighboring Azerbaijan.
New clashes in the territory erupted on Sept. 27 and ended with a Russian-brokered truce six weeks later, seen as a victory for Azerbaijan.